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Ernie Pyle at the Lodge
In original any in now He I I R a vingS By Ernie The Roving Reporter GATLINBURG, Tenn.--Yesterday alter- noon, while Jack Huff and I were sitting front of ihe fireplace at .the top of Mt. Conte, a couple of weary strangers came around the comer of the lodge. 'They asked for succor-- lor a night's lodging and a spot of food and a touch of bandage for sore heels--and they got it, in good old Smoky Mountain fashion. They turned out to be two of the nicest strangers who ever came to a mountain top. They were Cleveland business men, out on a v a - ' -- cation trip. One was John F, Wilson, white- haired general manager of the Equity Loan Co. The otnef was Carr Liggett, has his own advertising agency. A man who has just climbed a mountain feels a wonderful sense of accomplishment. He takes off his shoes and sprawls out feeling o! honestly earned repose. The thin air and the great height and the unbrldgeabla gap In character between us and all those soft souls down below gives you a puffy and you expand and expound at great length.' The afternoon wore on into early mountain mountain darkness, and after supper we felt like' purring. Then 'Jack Huff came with 'more great logs. And we sat warm before the fireplace and under the hanging gasoline lantern and we all waxed, you might:say, a little philosophic. We finished the war (England won)- wa finished the election (we're keeping the result secret); we wrapped up and shipped off WPA; we scouted the Andes and climbed bit around the Alps; we discussed the proper way to drive an automobile; we went the entire curriculum of sectional dialects America; we achieved a new definition of civilization as meaning the advance of kindness, and decided civilization is going ahead despite everything; we told stories of bears and prodigious feats of walking' we decided how a fireplace should be built- we took up the Negro question and we talked bank loans; we poured some steel and we figured out the best way to build an air It's astounding what a half-dozen people caii talk about In one evening on a mountaintop. And then, as - a sort of dessert for our ruminations, Mr. Wilson carried us back to the pioneer days, when our hardy ancestors first came to this country. And so soothing were the bandages on Wilson's feet, and so heady the wine of warmth upon Mr. Wilson's brow, that he condemned ail modern conveniences as a lot of nonsense. As for him, he'd take the way of cold bedrooms and candlelight and straw ticks..Those were the days, and those were the men, said Mr. Wilson. And in climactic conclusion, Mr.' Wilson declaimed that of all the abominations this earth tne most despicable in his life steam heat.- Whereupon we all retired to our cold bedrooms. bedrooms. If Mr. Wilson had got up this morning swearing he had slept like a baby, I I would have kicked his sore heel. But he didn't. He damn near froze to death, just I did. Pioneers--bah! * Â· Â· But the morning sun can do much for man. Today was clear, and our breakfast excellent, and we faced the prospect of our seven-mile return hike almost with eagerness. Since I like to walk alone, I started out ahead of my new friends. Twice the first of the downhill. journey I stopped to rest. But after the second sitting, I never stopped again. Tne truth is, I was afraid to 'stop. That rheumatic knee'of mine got worse and Even- downward step plunged it into a of hot agony. It creaked so loud I couldn't hear the birds sing. It went back and through sheer force of habit, and I knew if ever I interrupted its rhythmic routine rest, I'd never get n started again. So on and on I walked, through an and it was close to noon when suddenly forest-roofed trail broke cut into the open, and some cars were sitting around, and I knew here was the end of the rainbow. Great Walker had made it home. He collapsed on a rock. Now my Cleveland friends should have no more than five minutes behind. But passed. And more time. And they didn't Finally I go; to worrying, and thinking of bears or snakes or broken legs. At last--three-quarters of an hour behind me--they came, limping and halt. Mr. Wilson's toes somejow haa got ail up with each other, and wound up a mass blood Inside his boots. .And Mr. Liggett discovered he had some muscles that hadnt been used since he was marching down in France in 1918. We were, as they say, the South, a "sorry" trio. It is with a breaking heart that I this, for I believe Mr. Wilson intends to some heroic story about it around Cleveland. But I say this |s a.democracy, and If frail knee musi surfer the cruel scrutiny of the public spotlight, then Mr. Wilson's torn toes shall not hide in privacy. * Â· Â· We bid each other a hikers' adieu. My Cleveland friends started right home. Personally Personally I'm not at all sure of them, even though Mr. Wilson is a rugged pioneer. If they do not return soon, I hope The Cleveland Press will send out an expedition. As for me--well, don't you worry about folks, I'm safe and happy right here in with a hot pad around my knee. If anybody should care to hire me to pack back up the mountain tomorrow, I'll consider It for a million dollars. Not very seriously though.